Synopses & Reviews
This classic treatise by W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), the most important African American leader of the first half of the twentieth century and the cofounder of the NAACP, presents a brief history of Africa and people of African descent. To appreciate this pioneering work, published in 1915, it is important to recall the historical context of American society at the start of the last century. As historian Kenneth Goings points out in his introduction, during the first half of Du Bois's life, there were between 3000 and 5000 lynchings of African American men, women, and children; separation of the races was upheld by the Supreme Court (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896); the vast majority of black Americans lived in abject poverty; and bogus racial theories that invariably put African Americans at the bottom of a racial hierarchy were commonly accepted, even in educated circles.
Faced with this seemingly insurmountable wall of racism, Du Bois's stance against the injustice of the time takes on heroic proportions. Through his writings he hoped to educate America and thus to dispel the vast ignorance about black people that fed the racism of most whites. In writing The Negro he intended to create a "short general statement of the main known facts and their fair interpretation as shall enable the general reader to know as men a sixth or more of the human race." For in fact, outside of commonplace racist stereotypes and prejudicial notions, most whites had no real knowledge of African Americans as true human beings or as descendants of a continent with a very ancient and distinguished history of many cultures. So Du Bois was addressing a very real need at the time to enlighten most white Americans about the cultures and achievements of the African peoples.
More than eighty-five years after its first publication, The Negro is still well worth reading as a groundbreaking work. In a dark age of colonialism and blatant discrimination, Du Bois succeeded in proving that black people were inheritors of a proud cultural legacy and a long history. He thus laid the foundation for a later generation of scholars.
This new edition is complemented by an informative introduction by Kenneth W. Goings, professor and chair of African American Studies at Ohio State University.
This classic treatise presents a brief history of Africa and people of African descent. Through his writings Du Bois hoped to dispel the vast ignorance about black people that fed the racism of most whites. More than 85 years after its first publication. "The Negro is still well worth reading as a groundbreaking work.